Hurricane Ike and the 1900 storm

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HOUSTON - Four years ago Thursday, in the early morning hours, Hurricane Ike made landfall in southeast Texas. 

The center of the large eye crossed the coast just east of Galveston while moving northwest at 12 mph. Ike was a very large storm, comparable in size to Hurricane Carla in 1961, which made landfall across Matagorda Bay 100 miles to our southwest.  Ike had maximum winds of 110 mph and hurricane-force winds extended to the east over 100 miles and to the west over 60 miles from the center.  Thus, a huge swath of the heavily developed coastal areas of Texas and southwest Louisiana experienced widespread flooding and wind damage as Ike passed through.

On Sept. 8, 1900, another large and powerful hurricane moved inland in southeast Texas with the center moving northwest about 12 mph near San Luis Pass. While we do not have as much meteorological data on the 1900 storm, we do know from impacts that it likely had maximum winds of near 140 mph and was large –- Cameron, La., experienced hurricane-force winds and coastal communities all along the southwest Louisiana coast experienced storm surge flooding.  In many respects it was a comparable storm to Ike.

The graphic shows how eerily similar the tracks of the 1900 storm and Ike were as each storm crossed the Gulf and then maintained identity and continued to adversely impact the weather through the Midwest and Canada.  The 1900 storm killed at least 8000 people.  Ike resulted in at least 150 deaths in its trek across the United States. Storm surge was the big killer in 1900. Storm surge was the big killer with Ike. 

Houston was sparsely populated in 1900, thus, the actual damages then were not comparable to today.  However, when simulating the impact of the 1900 storm on what we have in place today, scientists estimate that the 1900 storm would cause an incredible $104 billion in losses. Only Katrina in 2005 and the 1926 South Florida hurricane would be costlier.  Ike caused $28 billion (2010 dollars) in damages, making it the third costliest.  Using the past storm and current building comparison, Ike would be the ninth costliest. 

Let's hope it will be a long time before the next large hurricane visits our coast.  Make no mistake, another surely will.


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